There’s been quite a kerfuffle over this article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/world/asia/28kashgar.html?scp=1&sq=kashgar&st=cse that came out in the New York Times today.
Personally, I feel like this situation is yet another example of how archaeological patrimony is used to achieve blatantly political means. I mean, thanks for trying to distract all of us by saying you’re worried about earthquake hazards in the area, but really, if you were truly that concerned about the well-being of the Kashgar residents, you could just relocate them to a new area and leave Old Kashgar alone. Does Three Gorges ring a bell? Yea, there’s precedent.
But all unnecessary ranting and finger-wagging aside, the situation with Kashgar is a clear indication that despite the passage of the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] earlier this year, nothing is changing fast. Archaeological heritage is still in danger of destruction even though it is now prohibited for the United States to import any unprovenanced Chinese antiquities into its borders. This brings up the issue of the difference between movable and immovable cultural property. Sure, if you can’t move it, you can’t steal it. But it can still be destroyed, as we can clearly see in the article. Is it enough just protect movable cultural property? Does one type of cultural property take precedence over another?
These are only two questions that only scrape the tip of this iceberg-sized issue.
What I want to draw your attention to by posting the article is this: What good is a Memorandum of Understanding that prohibits a country from importing unprovenanced antiquities, when the government of the country that is the source of those antiquities seems have no qualms with destroying them? This is the Chinese situation in a nutshell, and so I felt that this article was an appropriate one with which to launch my little bloggie here. So, enjoy, chew on these ideas, and report back.
Also, big link dump coming up soon, and also check out: safecorner.savingantiquities.org for my spiel on the Kashgar issue that’s coming up soon!
ALSO check out: http://en.bjchp.org/english/indexen.asp for more on-the-ground information about the Kashgar crisis.